William Boyce

William Boyce (1711 - 1779)

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William Boyce
Born in London, Englandmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in London, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 25 Jul 2018
This page has been accessed 35 times.

Categories: English Classical Era Classical Composers.



William Boyce was born in September 1711 in London in Joiners Hall, then located in Lower Thames Street, to John Boyce, at the time a joiner and cabinet-maker, and beadle of the Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers, and his wife Elizabeth Cordwell, Boyce was baptised on 11 September 1711 and was admitted by his father as a choirboy at St Paul's Cathedral in 1719, before studying music with Maurice Greene after his voice broke in 1727.[1] A house in the present choir school is named after him. His first professional appointment came in 1734 when he was employed as an organist at the Oxford Chapel in central London. He went on to take a number of similar posts before being appointed Master of the King's Musick in 1755 and becoming one of the organists at the Chapel Royal in 1758. One of his students was the prodigy Thomas Linley. By the year 1758 his deafness had increased to such an extent that he was unable to continue in his organist posts. He resolved to give up teaching and to retire to Kensington, and devote himself to editing the collection of church music which bears his name. He retired and worked on completing the compilation Cathedral Music that his teacher Greene had left incomplete at his death. This led to Boyce editing works by the likes of William Byrd and Henry Purcell. Many of the pieces in the collection are still used in Anglican services today.His only son, also William Boyce (25 March 1764 – 1824), was a professional double bass player.[2]] On 7 February 1779 Boyce died from an attack of gout. He was buried under the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.[3]Boyce was largely forgotten after his death and he remains a little-performed composer today.


A number of his pieces were rediscovered in the 1930s and Constant Lambert edited and sometimes conducted his works. Lambert had already launched the early stages of the modern Boyce revival in 1928, when he published the first modern edition of the Eight Symphonies (Bartlett and Bruce 2001). The first movement (Allegro) of Boyce's Symphony No. 1 in B-flat was the first piece of music played during the procession of the bride and bridegroom at the conclusion of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.[4]


  • set of eight symphonies



theatre music

  • the masque Peleus and Thetis
  • songs for John Dryden's Secular Masque
  • incidental music for William Shakespeare's
    • The Tempest,
    • Cymbeline,
    • Romeo and Juliet
    • The Winter's Tale

chamber music

  • a set of twelve trio sonatas.[5]

military music

  • the British and Canadian Naval March "Heart of Oak".

music for masonic rituals[6]]

church music in two large volumes:

  • Fifteen Anthems by Dr Boyce in 1780
  • A Collection of Anthems and a Short Service in 1790 (Bartlett 2003, 54).


Boyce's portraits were painted by Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Hudson. He was drawn and engraved by John Keyse Sherwin, and a vignette made by Drayton after Robert Smirke.[7]


  1. Bruce, Robert J. 2005. "Boyce, William (bap. 1711, d. 1779)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, [2004; online edition, Oct 2005; subscription or UK library membership required]
  2. British musical biography (Birmingham: S.S. Stratton, 1897) p. 56.
  3. Bruce, Robert J. 2005. "Boyce, William (bap. 1711, d. 1779)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, [2004; online edition, Oct 2005; subscription or UK library membership required]
  4. "The Official Order of Service for the Wedding of Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle" (PDF). https://www.royal.uk/. 18 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018. External link in |website= (help)
  5. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Boyce, William". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  6. Hill, Cecil (1980). "Masonic music", in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, vol. 11, 753–756
  7. "Boyce, William". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

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Images: 1
William Boyce painted by Mason Chamberlin
William Boyce painted by Mason Chamberlin


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